Dudi Sela’s hopes of becoming the first Israeli to win an ATP Tour title win in 23 years ended in disappointment on Sunday night after he was beaten by John Isner in the final of the BB&T Atlanta Open.
Competing in his first ATP Tour final since September 1998 – and looking for his first ATP win having been beaten by Andy Roddick in that final in Beijing, top-seed Isner, who was also the defending champion, got off to a flying start as he raced into a 3-0 lead. Sela then held serve to make it 1-3, before earning a break point in the next game only to see Isner reel off two successive aces to eventually see him go 4-1 up.
Sela then held serve again to trail 4-2, and although he pulled off a dream backhand passing shot, Isner’s powerful serves – three aces – saw him make it 5-2. Sela serving to stay in the set, did just that to hold at 5-3, but Isner once again used his powerful service to full effect, served out to take the first set 6-3.
With the previous four winners of the tournament having lost the opening set in the final, Sela was hoping history would repeat itself, and serving first in the second set, won the opening game with ease, ending his best serving game with a superb ace.
Isner turned in another characteristic service game to level the score at 1-1, before Sela found himself in trouble in the next game at 0-30 down. Bouncing back to 30-30, he though couldn’t serve out as Isner broke to go 2-1 up to put himself in firm control. He then made it 3-1, and although Sela held to make it 3-2, Isner made it 4-2.
Sela held again to make it 4-3, though exchanges Isner then went 5-3 ahead. Serving to stay in the match, Sela held his serve to make it 5-4, but Isner serving for the match eventually pulled through. Sela did win the first two points to go 30-0 up, but Isner as par course of the match, reeled off four successive points to take the second set 6-4, winning the match in 71 minutes.
Speaking after the match, Sela said he had hoped to secure the win for the people back in Israel. He said: “I wanted the win today for my people in Israel. It’s not easy the situation over there and hopefully it will be better. I tried to play for (that) theme but John was too tough for me today.
“I want to congratulate John on his win and the supporters who have been here this week for their help in supporting me.”
Isner also had some words of comfort for Sela as he picked up his trophy, saying: “You’ve had a fantastic week here, I’m sure there’s a lot going on in your mind with what’s going on back home for you, but we’re all here and are on your side.”